Tea, the refreshing drink that has crossed international boundaries, is today consumed all across the globe. One of the most widely consumed beverages; perhaps second only to water, tea is a favorite of many. In fact, the population of those who do not drink tea is in minority today. Apart from being uplifting and invigorating, tea also confers a number of health benefits to its consumers. Though most of us know about the various benefits of the drink, not many know about its origin, as to how tea came into being. Keeping in mind such people, we have provided some interesting information on the background of tea.
History of Tea
The origin of tea can be traced back to the year 2737 BC. During that time, people usually consumed boiled water, owing to health reasons. One day, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was drinking a hot cup of water. Suddenly, he noticed that wind had carried some dried leaves into his cup of water. The aroma as well as the taste of the water, in which the leaves had fallen, was so pleasing and energizing that he instantly fell in love wit it. Before anybody could realize it, tea had become one of the most popular drinks of his kingdom.
The beverage slowly made inroads into China, when a Yensei, Buddhist priest, came back to the country from China. Being introduced to tea in China, he also brought its recipe, along with him. Within no time, the refreshing drink became a favorite of the Japanese society. In fact, the people of Japan went a step further and introduced the concept of ‘Japanese Tea Ceremony’. With this new development, the status of tea was elevated from being a mere beverage to an advanced form of art.
As time passed, the journey of tea continued throughout the Orient. The beverage crossed international boundaries and made it way to the European territory, with the arrival of the European explorers in the Orient. It was the East India Tea Company that brought tea to Holland. However, during that time, the price of the drink was very high and it came to known as a rich man's beverage. With time, tea exports to the country started increasing, ultimately resulting in pushing down its price to a low and affordable level.
The journey of tea into America can be traced back to 1650, when Stuyvesant brought it to the American colonists in New Amsterdam, now known as New York. In no time, the drink became popular in the colony and the number of tea lovers here surpassed the ones in the whole of England. The Chinese Embassy in Moscow sent ornate chests of the dried leaves to Czar Alexis, in 1618. This event marked the entry to the beverage into Russia. Soon, drinking heavily sweetened tea, from a glass in a silver holder, became a custom in the country.
It was in Russia that the concept of adding honey or strawberry jam to tea was introduced. Even today, tea, along with vodka, forms the national beverage of Russia. The decade of 1880 saw America becoming the biggest importer of tea. Till now, the concept of only hot tea was doing the rounds. It was in 1904 that iced tea came into being. A tea plantation owner pioneered this concept, by serving iced tea at the St. Louis World's Fair. Since the fair was on a hot day, nobody was drinking hot tea; rather they were going towards cold drinks booths.
Being short of money as well as time, the tea plantation owner added ice to the vats of liquid hot tea. His desperate measure gave way to one of the highlights of the 1904 World's Fair and today, iced tea is one of the most popular drinks in summers. Talking about tea bags, their invention was somewhat of a surprise. In the 20th century, samples of tea were given in small silk bags. Instead of opening the bags, the buyers used to dip the entire bag in the hot water. The idea was adopted by tea plantation owners.
Soon, a tea company was formed by one such owner and the concept of tea bags was patented. The four sided tea bag was introduced by Thomas J. Lipton, who named it as 'flo-thru' tea bag (since it allowed tea to steep in the cup more quickly then the two-sided bags). Today, tea is consumed in almost every country and every home, though its form might differ. Around 70% of the tea is grown in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Argentina and China and consumed throughout the world.